LETTING GO OF PERFECTIONISM AS A TEACHER
Jun 22, 2020
My yoga practice has taught me the importance of letting go every time I step on my mat. When I first began to practice yoga, my focus was on perfecting the poses. After a while though, my practice would not progress. I was burnt out, frustrated, and unkind with myself when I could not master the poses perfectly. I discovered I needed to let go of all my preconceived notions, my perceived limitations, and perfectionism in order to grow in my yoga practice.
Yoga has shown me that I am always a work in progress, but once I stopped letting my inner perfectionist guide my path, I was able to let go and grow tremendously. I found perspective, grace and surrender.
As teachers, it is easy to fall into this same pattern. You may spend hours after a long day in the classroom trying to create a perfect lesson plan. You may tell yourself you cannot move on to your other projects even though you could have easily stopped hours ago at “good enough”. And just like my experience on the yoga mat, you start to feel burnt out, frustrated and unkind to yourself.
So as a teacher, how do you do what you love with passion and purpose, while letting go of perfection?
If we teach our students the importance of good enough, why do we feel we need to be perfect? That we need to deliver perfect lesson plans that take us hours to prepare? That we can never make mistakes in the classroom? How do we react when we do make a mistake in the classroom? Do we pause and take a breath or do we get frustrated?
Making mistakes creates growth and learning opportunities for us and our students. We should welcome mistakes with open arms as a reminder that we too, are human and not perfect. When we let go of our own preconceived notions and perceived limitations of what it means to learn, we may find we can give ourselves grace and compassion and begin to let go.
DON’T LET YOUR INNER PERFECTIONIST GUIDE YOUR PATH
Have you met your inner perfectionist? You might not have been formally introduced, but you can easily recognize that voice. It is the one that tells you to spend more hours on a lesson plan, it compares your work to others, it reminds you there is always more to do. It fights against ”good enough” and when you need a break, it gives you a list of reasons why you don’t deserve one.
The next time you hear the voice, take a deep breath and respond. Tell the voice that you don’t need to perfect your lesson plans, Your lesson plans will become a valuable tool in your growth. Tell the voice it is okay to finish the work tomorrow, that you did the best you could in that moment. Tell the voice that you are striving for a healthy balance.
Now, close your eyes and imagine these same conversations with your students. Would you let them succumb to their own inner perfectionist? Of course not. You would do everything you could to teach them the valuable lessons of letting go of perfection. Next time you hear the voice, give yourself the same grace you have offered your students. Nurture your imperfect self.
In order to let go, you must practice surrender and the art of imperfection. Try to let go of your preconceived notions of the perfect lesson plan, the perfect classroom and the perfect teacher. Surrender to the day and tell yourself the rest can wait until tomorrow. And ASK FOR HELP. You don’t need to be in control of every part of your classroom. Reach out to parent volunteers, helpers and even your students. Determine how you can delegate and use your resources.
Just as I learned about myself on the yoga mat, we are all a work in progress. As an educator, your lesson plans, your teaching style, and how you show up in the classroom will continually evolve as long as you can free yourself from the shackles of perfectionism. Continue to show up with passion and purpose every day, but use these tools to show up in a balanced and healthy way.